Earlier this year, we asked the state to start an IG probe into what we consider the obvious mishandling of RIOC’s main office move from 591 to 524 Main Street. Maybe it was just monumental bumbling. They might cover that up too, but was it more? Or worse?
We offered the Inspector General specific details that looked fishy. Although an investigation started, we haven’t seen any feedback. But recently, an informant shared an eye-opening document* created by RIOC.
Responding to the IG probe, RIOC paid a law firm mucho dinero for creating what looks like a cover-up. President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Gretchen Robinson sought it, and you paid for it.
*The Daily has a heavily redacted version of the report, but even redacted, it has information that we believe should remain private for now. It’s also embarrassingly illiterate.
by David Stone
Stirring Action with the IG Probe
We’re not jumping to any conclusions because the Inspector General has not told us that the case is closed. But if the supposed independent team in Albany bought what Haynes and Robinson cooked up, I still have the bridge in Brooklyn I’ve been trying to sell. For decades.
It’s kind of funny on the face of it, but it’s also scary. Really, if you’ve done nothing wrong, why throw public money away on a suspect defense?
When we questioned specific financial details about how RIOC handled relocating its main offices, the IG did the right thing. They opened an investigation.
The notice landed on Robinson’s desk. This is where the bizarre part started.
Since she was a main character, Robinson along with Haynes could have quickly blown off any allegations by honestly and simply telling their side of the story.
But strangely, they didn’t do that. They sought help, expensive help from an outside law firm.
They did this “…to avoid the appearance of even the slightest impropriety,” RIOC said. That failed.
Adding flavor, Haynes and Robinson handed the task off to the already mysterious Markus Sztejnberg who – allegedly – spent a few months on RIOC’s legal team before flying the coup. He soon after erased his entire LinkedIn Profile after discrepancies involving RIOC arose.
Like, if he ever really joined the RIOC’s staff, was he mainly a Haynes toolkit? (Note: We’re planning a future review of his “contributions.”)
How the Joke’s on You
Let’s be clear. Haynes and Robinson did not pay for this so-called defense. The money came from RIOC’s bountiful harvest of Roosevelt Islanders’ money.
Reminder: none of RIOC’s operating expenses come out of the state budget. It’s all collected here.
Then, we jump to joke #1.
The report RIOC bought and forwarded to the Inspector General boasts of interviewing witnesses. Guess who? Haynes, Robinson and two other RIOC managers.
You don’t have to consult with Judge Judy to understand that this is the equivalent of running a trial with only the defendant’s testimony.
In establishing the report responding to the probe, their outside council did not talk to either landlord involved, although both – Hudson-Related and Westview Partners – had valuable information.
Maybe they didn’t because either might contradict the story being hatched.
More Fun with Shelton, Gretchen and Markus
The counsel hired by RIOC, defending Haynes and Robinson against charges in the IG probe found our suspicions completely unwarranted. No kidding!
“No Evidence Found to Substantiate Complaint”
- The hired brain trust refuted our statement that RIOC signed a lease extension for $110,000 per year with Westview. Refuted. It was $120,000. Our bad, but also irrelevant, mostly a distraction.
- Also Refuted was our claim that there was “no discussion or attempt to renegotiate with landlord (David Hirschhorn).”Evidence found that Haynes tried to negotiate with Hirschhorn in late summer 2020.” Our investigation suggests that this is a lie. And if the alleged “attempt” happened at all, it was nearly a year before the end of the lease. No mention of multiple ignored phone calls and emails by Haynes, Robinson and company.
- Here’s a favorite and the most troubling. Explaining the triple rent increase, the report says, “Refuted: Evidence found Hudson-Related represented to RIOC that it had reached agreed terms with a hardware store for the lease of 524 Main St. and proposed that as a starting point in negotiating… RIOC negotiated rent down…” This is a lie.
That’s two significant lies. If you’re on the up and up, why fabricate evidence? That alone makes anyone look dishonest.
There’s more, but it obscures at least as much as it informs. Just for fun, though, the experts hired by Haynes and Robinson say they were “unable to confirm” the rent paid by NYPL. David Kramer with Hudson-Related could easily help with that, having collected it for a decade.
And the hardware store thing – that story’s been going around so long it has whiskers. It came up first when Hudson-Related evicted the only hardware store and video shop. Although the eviction made sense – they were tens of thousands behind on rent – Kramer said he could easily find a new, quality hardware business for the space.
We’re still waiting. Apparently, RIOC’s executives, plagued by EADD, can’t figure out the difference between a salesman’s puff and reality.